The GW Community Plan Starts To Bite

September 26, 2019

It is now about three years since the Grandview Community Plan was bludgeoned through City Council by the pro-development Vision majority. For some while thereafter, it seemed to result in only minor effects on the ground.  However, below the surface, seismic events were building up a head of steam.

Almost immediately, realtors and developers had started to plan for their new future.  As I noted back in 2017, large numbers of Grandview properties were being offered — at hugely inflated prices –“for assembly” by developers. This had an undoubted effect on the house price inflation that has plagued Grandview until the market correction earlier this year.

Then the proposals started piling up. First, the outrageously incongruous Boffo Tower at Commercial & Adanac was approved, against broad community opposition, for 12 storeys. We have only been saved from that disaster by the developer’s refusal to proceed without even greater heights of absurdity, and the current softness of the luxury condo market.

This has been followed by projects on Grant Street, at First & Clark, at Nanaimo & Charles, on E. 11th Avenue, on East Hastings, at Lakeview Church, and at the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway.

top left: Lakewood; top right Charles & Nanaimo; bottom left E. 11th; bottom right E. Hastings

Top left First & Clark; top right Boffo Tower; bottom left Grant Street; bottom right Safeway site

Do any of these look anything like the neighbourhood we know and love?

My concern is that the avalanche has barely begun.

TMH at Adanac and Commercial

March 4, 2019

It is almost a year since Boffo and the Kettle — after an extended and popular campaign by the No Tower Coalition — cancelled their plans to build a huge for-profit condo tower on city-owned land on Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac. The campaign, of which I was a part, was covered in detail on this blog.

Since the cancellation announcement by the developers, various members of the Coalition have continued working quietly on this and other local issues. Now, the Coalition has formally proposed to the City that the site, currently an infrequently used car park, be used as the location for Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) for those in real need. It is, I believe, the perfect solution.  As the Coalition writes, there are many reasons to support the idea:

  • This would be a quick win for the City.
  • It is already City-owned property.
  • This would be using City land for a valid social purpose, not a for-profit development.
  • There is a need for housing for the hard-to-house in Grandview.
  • It would be entirely suitable for around 30 units of SRO-type housing, with a maximum of three storeys.
  • The community will likely not object to three storeys on that site. It’s not a tower!
  • The TMH proposal allows the City to retain control of the land and while providing essentially the same amount of social benefit that would have been achieved with the proposed Boffo/Kettle project.
  • The current council seems to be doing a pretty good job of distributing social housing and services equitably throughout the City. No one neighbourhood should be expected to take responsibility for more than its share.
  • This TMH proposal is the right scale for the community. A 30-unit TMH project would provide secure housing for those who currently need supportive housing in Grandview-Woodland but the project would not be so large that it would draw lots of people in need from other neighbourhoods.

The Coalition is asking its supporters to write to City Council in support of this idea (see the Coalition site for email addresses). I join in that request.

Why Can’t Boffo/Kettle Answer A Simple Question?

January 26, 2018

A senior member of the Kettle Boffo team that wants to build a massive over-sized tower on the corner of Venables and Commercial Drive loves to retweet on Twitter material regarding “affordable housing,” as if that is important to him. We also know that it is becoming difficult in Grandview to find affordable housing.

So, yesterday, I asked him (and copied to Boffo Properties) a simple question:

“How many of the Boffo condos on the Drive are planned to be affordable under CMHC definitions for median income Vancouver families with minimum legal down payment?”

All of the variables are easy to find:

  • CMHC (and most other) definitions of “affordable housing” consider 30% of gross income to be the maximum of affordable.
  • The latest Stats Can figure (2015) for median family income in Vancouver is $72,662. I’d be happy for them to use $75,000.
  • The minimum down payment in Canada is 5% for the first $500,000 and 10% for the balance above $500,000.

So far, there has been absolute silence from them. I wonder why that is? Could it be that none of the condos will be affordable to the average Vancouver family? If so, how is that helping the situation in Grandview?

If the Boffo Tower is designed for the global luxury market rather than to help house regular locals, that’s up to them, but let’s not have any of the partners suggest this has anything to do with affordability.

What I did get in return for my question was the typical nonsense from the build, build, build crowd. As usual they say that a $651,000 condo (now the median price in Vancouver) is more affordable than a $2 million single-family property. While that is technically true it still doesn’t make the condo genuinely affordable. This argument is exactly the same as telling a working family they should buy an Aston Martin rather than a Lamborghini when what they actually need is a Ford Escort.


What Is Happening With The Boffo Tower?

January 24, 2018

As I was out shopping this morning, I was reminded — by their own sign — that nothing is happening with the Kettle/Boffo Tower project that aims to ruin the stretch of Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac.


It is now almost five years since Nancy Keogh of the Kettle begged and pleaded with City Council to exclude the Boffo Tower from the delays in the Grandview Woodland Community Plan, and it is more than 18 months since Councillor Andrea Reimer forced through an amendment — against the wishes of the Planning Department and thousands upon thousands of residents who had petitioned against a tower — to give Boffo the full twelve stories that they were demanding.  And nothing has happened.

If you visit their website, nothing has changed for well over a year. Absolute silence. No light shining on anything. This is not altogether surprising as they have been essentially silent (to the community) throughout the entire six year process. I am sure they have had a lot to say to Planning and politicians, but locals apparently don’t need to be informed.

They have also been talking among themselves. At least some of the delay is due to serious differences of opinion between the partners — or so we are told by City Planning.

As someone strenuously opposed to the building of a tower on that site (when excellent low-rise alternatives exist that can satisfy the Kettle’s needs), the longer the delay the better. However, there is one worrying issue.  We are told by Planning that the value assigned to the City land for Boffo’s Tower is fixed at the value when they first discussed the idea with the City, perhaps in 2012 or 2013. As we are all aware, land values have increased astronomically over the last five years. That means Boffo is being allowed to buy tax-payer’s property at far below current market value.

Every taxpayer in the City is therefore subsidising the private profit to be made by this developer. That’s a serious problem that needs to be fixed whenever they bother to apply for a development permit.


More information on the Boffo Tower disaster can be found on this blog and on the website of the No Tower Coalition.


Community Plan Update

November 9, 2017

On Monday evening I attended the GWAC meeting at which planner Andrew Pask gave a form of update on where we are with the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan implementation.  It was a well-attended meeting and not at all raucous as some may have expected.

It is worth pointing first that Pask introduced himself as “the former planner for Grandview”.  It was left unclear as to whether he has gone on to bigger and better things, and whether or not GW now no longer has a specific planner to talk to.

It was clear that Pask wanted to concentrate on how Planning is “saving” affordable rentals in the district. This is happening through the Pace of Change program under which only five applications for demolishing existing rentals will be accepted by Planning in the first three years after the Plan’s introduction (summer 2016 to summer 2019).. It was assumed that most of these would come from the RM zoned areas west of the Drive where the low-rise apartment buildings are concentrated.

Applications for this program to date include the assembly at 11th and Victoria (10 storeys, mixed condos/rentals), an assembly on Broadway just west of Commercial (10-storeys, mixed condos/rentals, public hearing spring 2018, and 825 Commercial (6 storeys with a pre-application open house tonight). Another possible contender for the Pace of Change program is a development assembly at 1535 Grant  where developers are seeking 6-storeys (an early open house is scheduled for 15th November at Lord Nelson School, I believe).

Pask had no idea what would happen to this program at the end of the three years. He said Planning would make recommendations to Council who would then make a decision. It was noted this would be after the next municipal election.

Pask also touched on the Safeway site, the Boffo Tower, St Francis school, and the Britannia Renewal:

As for the Safeway site, he reviewed the arguments for and against the plaza on site, including Safeway’s strong reluctance. No application has yet been made, so we await further developments.

On the Boffo Tower, he agreed that Boffo threatened to shut down the project this spring, and made sure we remembered Planning had approved only 9 storeys but they had been over-ruled by Vision’s Council majority who agreed 12. However, he did not mention the now well-known internal tension between Boffo and the Kettle. He did say they were anticipating a formal application — at last! — within the next couple of months. It is worth noting that I didn’t see (or recognize) a single Boffo or Kettle person at the meeting.

With regard to St. Francis, he noted that Planners had agreed with many residents’ concerns over the redevelopment on Semlin, and it seems the Church is now going back to re-study a redevelopment of the current school site on Victoria.

On the question of housing on the proposed redeveloped Britannia site, Pask made it clear that Planning had little to do with this project at this stage, as most of the land was held by School Board and Parks Board. He did make a case for putting housing on the site but noted any decision is still a long way off, and that no specific number of housing units was being targeted. There was also discussion about “air parcels” (i.e. building on top pf other buildings) and Pask agreed that Council had left “air parcels” undefined. There was also a question of whether the Renewal Committee was using up-to-date demographics as they seemed to be ignoring the growing seniors’ population.

Questions from the audience covered much of the same ground but also included additional concerns:

One resident asked why, if the viaducts were coming down and Venables was being closed, why the Boffo Tower was even considered given the tower residents would be adding traffic. Pask said there was no question of Venables being closed, merely “calmed”.

It was noted by several people that GW remains green-space deficient when compared to other districts in the City and that the Plan didn’t seem to help. Pask claimed the Plan included “extensions” and “improvements” to existing facilities but there were no details, He also made a case for “hard surface” public areas (plazas, closed roads, etc), but the audience clearly didn’t buy that.

The issue of developing the industrial lands was discussed briefly. Pask notes that Vancouver needed to protect the small existing industrial base and that the Plan called for gradual densification of those areas with taller buildings rather than change of use.

The move of St Paul’s hospital to Strathcona, and its effects on our neighbourhood, was raised as was the problem of AirBnB‘s effect on rental availability, but Pask didn’t have specific information to bring on those topics. The issue of planning permissions and how long they took and the massive expense was discussed. Pask said they were aware of the problems and hoped to do better in the future.

All in all it is good to have a planner come and talk about these issues but did we really learn much? I’m not sure we did and, in the end, it just feels like another faux attempt at “consultation and public awareness”.



Is The Boffo Tower A Dead Duck?

May 18, 2017

There were some strange goings on at the Grandview -Woodland Community Plan Open House at the WISE Hall last night. This was the second iteration of the duplex rezoning display presentation I wrote about on the weekend.

Several members of the public were advised by a City planner that Boffo had withdrawn from its Boffo-Kettle Tower project at Commercial & Venables/Adanac.  Andrew Pask the CoV planner directly in charge of the GW Community Plan seemed quite upset that his colleagues had “let the cat out of the bag” and claimed he knew nothing about it.

The Boffo-Kettle Tower is the massive for-profit tower project the neighbourhood has been actively opposing for almost five years, but which City Council — no surprise there — pushed through against the residents’ desires last summer (see here and here for the long battle fought).

The residents wanted a height of no more than 4 stories on the site, to match the neighbourhood and the current zoning along Commercial Drive, but the developers claimed they needed 12 stories to make sure they received an unhealthy level of profit. In the final months of discussion, City Planning suggested 9 stories but, at the Council meeting to approve the project, Boffo’s allies in Vision pushed through an amendment re-establishing the 12-stories. The opposition to the tower, using the developer’s own words from public meetings, suggested the final building would be 15 to 20 stories high. No, said the developer; the opposition is just lying.

Now, we presume, the developers tried a bait and switch, pushing for 15 to 20 stories once again, and City Planning pushed right back, well aware of the local fury this would create in Grandview in the run up to the 2018 municipal elections.

Maybe it is all rumour and conjecture; but it will certainly please thousands of residents if it turns out to be true.

Lies My Developer Told Me

July 29, 2016

Throughout the long — 4-5 years — debate over the Boffo/Kettle tower, the developer and its lackeys claimed that they had frequently asked the City and the Province for money for their required expansion on Commercial and that the governments had said there was no money for mental health housing.

This same myth — for such it is — was peddled by the Kettle and its developer patrons even as late as this month in the run-up to the Council’s debate on the Grandview Community Plan.  Developer Daniel Boffo claimed: “the Kettle has been looking at options for government funding for over a decade with no progress and no results.”  I am being polite calling that a myth, of course, because that is simply one big lie.

In the last decade, the Kettle has applied for and received government funding for mental health housing units at Taylor Manor; they have built, with government money, their new facility on Burrard Street; and yet more government money has gone into a new facility for the Kettle at 1700 Kingsway.  In other words, the only Kettle project in the last decade that has not received government money is the expansion on Commercial — and the reason for that is quite obvious.

Once the Kettle had snuggled into Boffo’s queen-sized they didn’t need the City’s financial help and so never asked for it.

Of course the City was happy to go along with this charade for a number of reasons:

1) they are a developer-financed and directed-Council;

2) the City Council has zero priority for mental health (or homelessness or affordable housing) except to blame everyone else for the lack of assistance. Their priorities lie elsewhere. Getting Boffo to take over the government’s responsibility was a win in every direction for them;

3) the City has for years wanted a major tower at Venables & Commercial (see discussions with planners back in 2011)l it was in fact the City who engineered the sordid marriage between Boffo and the Kettle in the first place.

This is a precedent-setting disaster in so many ways:  the tower at Commercial & Venables will be just the first of many to blight our neighbourhood over the next decade; the City will now advise NGOs to go looking for private money to do government work (destroying in its wake the very Canadian idea that health care for all is a tax-payer responsibility); years and years of planning and thinking can be overthrown by hastily written ideological amendments thrown into the heap at past the last-minute (this wasn’t the first time we had seen that); more than 4,000 residents expressing their opinion can be ignored at will.

Developers’ profits and crony politics win again — and Vancouver should be the sadder for it.



Now We Wait and Worry Some More

July 28, 2016

This afternoon, Vancouver City Council approved the Grandview Woodland Community Plan by the not-surprising vote of 10-1 with only Councillor Adriane Carr voting against.

However, not content with the Planning Department’s four years of work, Councillor Reimer had produced a long list of substantive amendments to the Plan that she had conjured together over night. Those amendments — which included allowing the full 12 stories for the Boffo Tower — were approved by majority and so it was this amended Plan that was finally bulldozed through Council.

Councillor Geoff Meggs made it clear he was disappointed in the level of density Grandview would accept under the Plan, and he suggested that we were not carrying our weight. I am certain he will be looking for spot rezoning applications he can help push through against the word and spirit of the Plan, especially around the south end of Commercial.  I am sure most of his Vision brethren will be right behind him.


  • Boffo doesn’t need any genuine public hearings for a rezoning now and I expect them to move swiftly, looking for permission to start digging that big hole every tower needs;
  • how quickly will we see applications along Hastings between Clark and Nanaimo?
  • how quickly will Broadway & Commercial change?  Will tower plans await the subway decision?
  • will the renoviction rate accelerate as rapidly as tenants’ advocates fear with new height allowances?
  • What effect will all this have on the debilitating business and residential rent increases currently afflicting the Drive?
  • Are the folks managing the Britannia Renewal project as upset as they should be that the City has decreed there will be housing on Britannia? And will this Community Plan override any Renewal Plan produced in the future?

An awful lot of intelligent people put an awful lot of effort into trying to help the Community understand what the Plan might meet for them and their quality of life. Outside the strictly-limited boundaries of the Planning process there was an intense debate about height, density, social justice. A great many people got very interested and then got very frustrated by the process that was deliberately closed down, first by the faux “Citizens’ Assembly” and then the year long wait while Planning decided how to spin the Assembly’s requests, refusing to talk with or meet with the neighbourhood during that time.

That being said, I am sadly aware that most people in Grandview will leave their residences tomorrow to head to work or school or recreation and not give a moment’s thought. They might read a report on the hearing in the Metro while they commute, and then turn to the sports pages. In the months ahead they will get cranky about all the building fences blocking sidewalks and smaller streets, but it will be a generalised annoyance only.  Only when the towers are completed at both ends of the Drive will they wonder what was there before.

How do we get to those masses of people and make then understand that they should have some say in the future of their own neighbourhood; and that by having a say they can and will change plans for the better?

The NO TOWER Coalition did a wonderful job with their weekly information tables in Grandview Park. They actually talked with thousands upon thousands of residents and visitors, more than three thousand of whom agreed to sign the petition against the Boffo Tower.  They also did a really good job with getting the signs out and about throughout the community.

But that wasn’t enough to engage the active interest of the mass of the middle class, Vision’s heartland. Vision’s constant polling (they are the only full time party in Vancouver) lets them know if they are in trouble in places, like Grandview, where they need to be strong to maintain a majority in the at-large Council chamber. In this case, they felt confident enough to tear down four years of work by their Planning Department with amendments apparently rushed together overnight. While this hardly compares with the pages and pages of hastily-scribbled last-moment amendments that formed part of the DTES Plan, it shows a constant need for Vision to intrude their ideology onto the technical work of the Planners.

I have written several times before about the assymetric power relationship in which a pick-up team of unpaid untrained and unprofessional(ly qualifed) volunteers goes head to head with a well-funded developer, a plethora of expensive PR agents, compliant mainstream media, and as often as not, the power of the incumbent Council regime. This can only be solved by structural changes to the system and it must include a return to the third-party appeals process that we lost a decade or so ago. I also believe that a ward system is key to most of the needed changes.

However, that is all for the next generation of activists to figure out.

928 Commercial

June 18, 2016

We have yet another development application on Commercial. This one involves the last house existing on the Drive between Venables and Broadway. The development doesn’t come as any surprise as the building was sold a year or so ago with flipping and/or redevelopment in mind.

924 Commercial_old


Not only is this the last house on the Drive, it is also one of the oldest (though much changed), having been first built in 1904. In what is today the front yard that faces onto Commercial, there used to be a small storefront, first used as a florist shop, but that disappeared soon after.  The house was purchased in the 1950s by Mrs. Ann Squires and, since that time, has generally been a cheap and cheerful rooming house, and rather run-down.




According to the Development Application sign, it is to be replaced by a mixed use building, with retail on the ground floor and rental apartments above. Personally I have no issue with the development especially as it states quite clearly that it will meet the current zoning requirements. I have also been pushing for a long time for more low-rise rental to be built in Grandview, and this seems to fit the bill.

Unfortunately, there is an unwelcome sloppiness about the project so far: the illustration on the notice board shows four storeys, while the text states five storeys. It would be good to have that confusion cleared up. The notice board also says that more information is available from the City of Vancouver site, but this property is not listed in the City’s current development data.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the developer/builder clearly expects to make a reasonable profit on this venture — and good for them. It gives the lie to other developers — Boffo Properties, for example — who claim they cannot make a financial go of low-rise rental properties; and it strengthens the position of many locals who feel that a low-rise alternative is possible for the ugly and intrusive Boffo Tower planned for Commercial & Venables.

Sometimes The Mayor Gets It Right

May 31, 2016

Regular readers will know that I am not a big fan of Mayor Gregor Robertson. However, once in a while, he — or rather his extensive “communications staff” — come up with something we can all agree with.

In a response in The Walrus, the Mayor takes on Kerry Gold’s piece of last week “The Highest Bidder“.  His main point is that there are a lot of reasons for Vancouver’s stratospheric housing market and we shouldn’t be blaming just the offshore Chinese investors. One would have to make up one’s own mind as to whether one believes his defence or not.

In a section on how we got to this state of affairs, Mayor Robertson makes a serious point:

“Planning decisions … that prioritized condo towers over townhomes and row houses have resulted in a lack of choice available to today’s buyers.”

I guess it is too much to hope that Boffo Properties will take that warning to heart and decide on pursuing a community-friendly alternative to their ghastly tower proposal for Commercial & Venables.

How Totalitarianism Works

May 30, 2016

In a well-argued piece on his blog yesterday, COPE’s Tim Louis writes about the public hearing so disastrously chaired by Clr. Raymond Louie about the Cresswell development on Commercial & 18th in Cedar Cottage. This was always going to be a divisive hearing about an important issue concerning development on arterial roads.  Activists from Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours and from across the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods network had been discussing the hearing for some time before the event.

At the hearing, most resident speakers spoke against the development, and Louie made decisions as chair that clearly breached common sense and the City’s Procedure By-Law. In the end, the three NPA Councillors along with Green Clr. Adrianne Carr stormed out of the hearing, bringing it to a close due to lack of quorum. Joseph Jones has reported some of the goings on. Oddly, this was the first hearing in living memory when Vision Vancouver had failed to show up with a majority (the Mayor and three others were missing). There was something fishy going on from the off.

Tim Louis’s point in his post today is the Vision regime’s handling of public participation in public hearings has deteriorated over the years, and this anti-democratic behaviour is now institutionalized in the rules of Procedure passed by that same Vision majority.

It is these same anti-community rules that will constrain the way Grandview residents will be able to formally challenge the Boffo Tower proposal and, even more importantly, the redrafted Grandview Community Plan later this year.

It is from a series of such seemingly innocuous (by themselves) administrative changes that totalitarianism is made to work. They beat you down not with the barrel of the gun but with the letter of the law.

Theft Of The Community’s Voice

May 29, 2016

One of the most noticeable successes of the campaign to halt the development of an intrusive and massive tower at Commercial & Venables has been the large number of lawn signs that are festooned across the neighbourhood — a clear indication of the community’s support.

lawn signs

Unfortunately, another continuing feature of the campaign has been the number of lawn signs that get stolen. Who knows who by? Though presumably it is someone who doesn’t want to see the campaign succeed.  Over the last year we have lost about a hundred signs;  the sign outside my own place has been stolen or damaged three times.

We had hoped that this juvenile behaviour — anti-democratic and anti-free speech at its heart — would pass like a phase in an adolescent’s growth.  But it seems the perpetrators are still determined to expose their childish sides. I received an email this morning from a correspondent just one block east of the Drive:

“for the 7th time, all the signs on our block were stolen last night sometime between 7pm and 11pm.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the Tower Proponents  way of operating –  repeated THEFT OF SIGNS, THEFT OF THE COMMUNITY’S VOICE, then finally THEFT OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.”

It is hard to disagree with those sentiments.

Yeah, I’m A YIMBY!

May 23, 2016

I am tired of certain people making up stuff about what it is I am against. Blinded by their own personal agendas they cannot see — or perhaps choose not to see — the positive message that I pursue.

Yes, in my backyard (specifically that part of my backyard on Commercial between Venables and Adanac), I want to see a fine four-storey permanent home for the Kettle Friendship Society; a home that will include 30 supportive housing units and 12,000 square feet of admin and Drop-In space. I want to see this home built on what is now the publicly owned parking lot (shown on map as (5).


I want to see the buildings along Venables (1, 2, and 3) replaced by a four-storey block with retail on the bottom floor and three floors of apartments. There are several of these already completed successfully in close proximity, including City View Terraces, right across the street from the proposed building), the block at Venables & Salsbury (just one block away), and the apartments on the Drive opposite Grandview Park (just four blocks away). The Casa and the Marquee would be examples a little further south along Commercial. I would see these as rental apartments.

small-piazza-in-bardolinoI want the old and little-used Commercial Drive section between Adanac and Venables (6) to be closed off to traffic and turned into an Italian-heritage style piazza. This I see as a lively community space where, for example, Uprising Bakery (7 on the map), could have tables and chairs out on the piazza, adding to the street life, recalling the public squares of Italy. This would be a significant addition to the public realm.

That’s what I want to see in my backyard, and I am certainly not alone. A design along these lines would give the Kettle exactly what it is asking for, would increase density while maintaining neighbourhood building forms, would provide Grandview with much-needed rental accommodation, and would provide the Drive with another lively public space where they can meet their neighbours and have fun.

But that’s just the YIMBY in me talking.

Sunday In The Park

May 15, 2016

The No Tower Coalition had their community outreach table at Grandview Park today. They are usually there on Saturdays, and the Sunday afternoon schedule was an experiment. I worked the middle hour, from one until two, and it went pretty well.

The Drive is definitely less busy on a Sunday, although the fact that this was a non-sunny and cooler temperature day may have had an effect too,  However, the people who stopped by seemed even more interested in the campaign than usual. There were a lot of good debates while I was there, and the number of signatures collected was impressive to say the least.

The team has put together a useful collection of table materials to explain both the campaign’s opposition to a tower and the pro-Kettle pro-community alternatives that the coalition has developed. These include pamphlets, lawn and window signs, comment postcards, before-and-after photo galleries showing what a tower will do to the look and feel of the Drive, and of course the petition.  Visiting the website adds access to a great 8-minute video.

The coalition has now collected well over 4,100 signatures in support of the campaign, and there is no sign that the increase in numbers is slowing down. Even more important than the signature collection, the weekly table continues the campaign’s tradition of open dialogue with the community. The personal interactions are worth every moment of volunteer time.



Bravo To The Coalition!

May 11, 2016

The vibrant and intelligent community-run, community-driven, and community-minded No Tower Coalition has reached two important milestones this week.

  • First, it is the one year anniversary of their beginning; it was founded around a kitchen table and now encompasses the width and breadth of Grandview;
  • Two, their petition opposing a massive tower at Commercial & Venables broke through the 4,000 signature barrier on Saturday, and has raced on to 4,100

Read more about their pro-Kettle community-friendly alternatives for that important corner at their website where you can see their remarkable video and join the thousands of concerned residents who have signed the petition.

Overcoming Symmetry

April 28, 2016

I have written before about the asymmetry of power when a small local community group goes up against a developer with his millions, his armies of PR agents and, often enough, the institutional (and taxpayer-funded) power of City Hall.  Compared to that vast arsenal, the few dollars that can be collected by donations to the group seem even more puny than David’s legendary slingshot.

However, skill and passionate enthusiasm can overcome a great deal as the No Tower Coalition has proven time and time again.  Now, they have managed to produce an intelligent 8-minute video explaining their position.

It is well worth the time!

There ARE Positive Alternatives

April 16, 2016

Boffo Properties and their allies, including City planners, have claimed for several years that the only way to achieve an expansion in the good work performed by the Kettle Friendship Society in Grandview is to impose a huge for-profit tower on this low-rise neighbourhood. Their multiple PR companies have tried hard — and no doubt spent a good fortune — to sell this unimaginative “our-way-or-the-highway” project.

The No Tower Coalition and its thousands of supporters have found many reasonable reasons to oppose the Boffo Tower at Venables & Commercial; and they have not been quiet in expressing that opposition.  However, much more importantly, they have taken the time and effort to put together a number of alternative positive solutions to getting the Kettle the expansion it needs without throwing our beautiful community under the unfeeling wheels of the developer’s bus.

Now, they have produced even more evidence that a community-friendly alternative is possible; after all, their suggested solutions have been put in place successfully elsewhere, including for the Kettle at Kingsway.

These new suggestions don’t even take into account the fact that both BC Housing and the City of Vancouver in the last few weeks have put serious money into projects remarkably similar to the Kettle’s requirements on Commercial. Nor do they include the Federal government’s new commitment to funding such projects

The facts are clear: the claim made over many years by the Kettle, Boffo, and City planners that there is no money available for projects of this kind is certainly no longer true. Whatever excuses that may have been used in the past to justify having mental health housing kidnapped by profit-driven developers have evaporated.

It is high time that the Kettle and City Planning started to talk to the community about solutions that the neighbourhood can get behind.

Just A Thought At Bedtime

April 10, 2016

bubble bursting

If the Vancouver housing bubble bursts in the next twelve to eighteen months and Boffo decide they can’t risk building their 200 expensive high-rise condos, the Kettle will be left in the lurch with no housing units and a whole lot less community support.

That is just one of the dangers of getting into bed with a for-profit developer instead of working hard to generate government (or internally generated) funding for an independent solution as others are doing successfully.

And if they think this bubble will last forever, perhaps they should educate themselves on what happened here in the 1980s.

Pants On Fire!

April 7, 2016

On 29th February, in an interview with CBC Radio’s “Early Edition“, Nancy Keough, Executive Director of the Kettle, and a lead proponent of the Boffo Tower proposal, said about the location of their tower at Venables & Adanac/Venables:

“It’s all industrial; there is nothing down there.”

This is a truly bizarre and untrue statement as anyone who lives in that neighbourhood can attest.  But don’t take my word for it. Here is a map of densities by Stats Can census tracts (click on image for a larger view):

GW Density

As you can plainly see, the Commercial diversion at Adanac is slap in the middle of one of the City’s densest districts, with populations at the 10,000 to 15,000 per level — the highest available designation.

This willfully inaccurate statement, along with other misrepresentations,  has to indicate their acknowledgment that there are no real arguments in favour of the unwanted highrise tower. Perhaps their multiple PR companies should take them aside and advise them that this nonsense will always come back to bite them in the ass.

Rewriting The Big Lie

April 4, 2016

Boffo Properties and the Kettle Friendship Society have used at least three PR companies to try to manufacture consent for their proposal to build a massive tower complex on Commercial Drive. Those companies don’t come cheap. Can you imagine how much more useful that incredible waste of money could have been had it been spent on actual services for those suffering with mental illness?

The efforts of all these companies have resolved into KettleBoffo’s latest slogan that says, in effect, if you don’t support our tower you are opposed to “inclusive community”. What on earth does that mean?

The KettleBoffo project includes up to 200 market-priced condos and “up to” 30 supportive housing units for Kettle clients.  Expensive condos are everywhere in this city, and so we can discount any thought that “inclusive” refers to those. That leaves only one other possible meaning: their “inclusive community” slogan is simply a rewrite of the old canard that opposition to Boffo’s massive for-profit tower is the same as rejection of mental health housing in Grandview.

This lie — for that is what it is in plain language — completely ignores the fact that this community has steadily supported the Kettle and its work for the last forty years. More importantly, perhaps, it also seeks to hide the fact that there is already a considerable amount of mental health housing in Grandview through organizations such as Coast Mental Health — housing that has been organized and operated without any of the controversy that has surrounded the KettleBoffo tower project.

The organized opposition to the Boffo Tower has made it clear — over and over again — that they support the Kettle’s expansion with 30 supportive housing units.  Moreover, they have worked hard to suggest alternative financing mechanisms that would allow the Kettle to expand without being in thrall to a for-profit developer.

The community has made it clear they do not want a massive high-rise on the Drive. It is about time we told the Kettle and Boffo that we want money spent on mental health services not on propaganda for a big lie.